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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Scorpion Volume 2: The Devil in the Vatican. Stephen Desberg (Writer), Enrico Marini (Artist), Jerome Saincantin (Translator) Cinebook Ltd (2009)

A wonderful swashbuckling adventure, this comic captures the spirit and the details of the genre with flair and the necessary light touch. The fearsome Cardinal Trebaldi is moving ever closer to his goal of becoming the next Pope, the most serious obstacle in his path is an outlaw known as the Scorpion. When the Scorpion makes his hatred very publicly known Trebaldi marshals his forces, warrior monks who are loyal only to him to track and kill the Scorpion. Leading the hunt is the gypsy Mejai who has been hired to find and deliver the Scorpion to the Cardinal's forces. At the same time the Scorpion is on his own quest to find the secret that Trebaldi is hiding. The story twists and turns with great action scenes and carefully set up flashbacks and reveals that mix up the plot nicely. When the action moves to Turkey with the beautiful and very dangerous Ansea Latal the Scorpion starts to edge closer to a very dangerous find and the pursuit by Trebaldi is never far behind.
There is a very difficult balance that has to be struck in this genre, a lighthearted approach to acrobatic heroics that never winks at the reader, that takes itself and the reader very seriously without ever loosing the glint of romance that gives it flavour. Stephen Desberg has all the right ingredients, the setting in Rome and the time frame, swords, wigs, tricorn hats and a world less traveled that offers adventure at the turn of the road. The plot is satisfying sweeping, a villain wants a powerful office and is happy to kill his way to getting there. A flawed hero stands between him and his prize, handsome and athletic he is every inch the leading man. The beautiful women are no puppets, they have energy and agendas of their own and need no permission from anyone to follow them. Nicely framing the close up action is a bigger plot that stretches across history and is revealed in carefully controlled amounts. The whole mix is potent and exhilariting.
The story is delivered with the astounding art of Enrico Marini who manages to provide a richly detailed context and a wonderful cast that feels right at home in it. The cast move with grace and force, there is a supple physicality about the art that is just what the story needs to push forward. This is a story that has action at its heart, it has to be bold and nimble, have an impact without every falling into outright brutality. All of this is done with page layouts that feel cinematic while having multiple panels, the angles and the cutting work to support the pace of the story. A thrilling pleasure to read.

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